The battle may be won, but the war is not over yet.
Lovers of Gowanus’s popular Douglass-Degraw Pool declared victory when the federal government’s finalized plan to clean up the fetid Gowanus Canal did not place a giant, sewage-catching tank under their pristine playground, but federal authorities are still considering burying one of two planned tanks beneath the pool if the city does not come up with a better location, which has neighbors mobilizing to put local pols’ feet to the fire.
“We need to convince the city and the new [mayoral] administration to not put a storage tank under our pool,” said Sue Wolfe, president of advocacy group Friends of Douglass-Greene Park, which led a rally in front of the pool on Wednesday.
The Environmental Protection Agency sparked outcry when it proposed digging up some of Thomas Greene Playground and the adjoining pool so a massive holding tank could be installed to store toilet slop during storms as part of a draft of the Superfund clean-up plan last year. The final blueprint for the project that will take as long as a decade includes the tanks but does not say where they will go, leaving pool protectors on guard.
The city’s Department of Environmental Protection is completely opposed to building the tanks, which it claims are “unnecessary.”
The Superfund plan is federal law that requires the city to pay to build the tanks and that the only part of the big dig now up for discussion is the placement of both tanks.
Superfund project manager Christos Tsiamis said that if the tank is placed underneath the park, the feds will work with the city to provide an alternative for those left without a place to play during the years-long construction.
Locals have demanded that, if the tank occupation took place, the replacement pool remain in the neighborhood and offer free breakfast and lunch to kids when school is out, just as the Double-D pool does.
Locals at the rally, including Councilman Steve Levin (D–Boerum Hill), said that instead of placing the holding tank beneath the park and pool, the tank should be buried underneath a nearby lot at Butler and Nevins streets owned by Con Edison — one of the three-dozen polluters that the feds have tapped to pay for the clean-up.
“The Con Edison site is a better site,” said Levin, who vowed to fight to save the neighborhood splash center. “This is a community resource that we’re not interested in giving up.”
The pool’s future is threatened on another front because it sits directly above a plot of contaminated land where the former Fulton Manufactured Gas Plant operated from 1879 to 1929. The state may require energy giant National Grid to clean up the polluted land, which could also require digging.
This is not the first time residents have circled the wagons around Double-D. Back in 2010, the city planned to close the pool due to budget cuts, but opposition from residents and politicians, including Borough President Markowitz, kept it open.